The Miami Herald checks out LYNDA BARRY's 'Writing the Unthinkable' workshop

“Lynda Barry Brings Writing the Unthinkable Workshop to Miami Dade College” / The Miami Herald / Amanda McCorquodale / March 10, 2011

​Remember when you read On the Road and you thought "I'm going to be a writer"? So you wrote in your moleskin daily. You poured yourself out over pints and espressos. Sunlight would shift overhead and you'd go lurching for your pen and moleskin as inspiration flooded in.

That was then. Now you're an underpaid office worker, hand cramped from too many TPS reports. You recently abandoned waking up at 5 a.m. to work on your writing, because your doctor had the audacity to hint that you might actually die soon if you don't make your heart pump faster from time to time.

So now you're just another asshole early morning jogger who's abandoned his or her dream. But hang on, there may be a way to jump start that moleskin action again and flush out all that douche-baggery of work-a-day life. Sign up for Lynda Barry's Writing the Unthinkable workshop at Miami Dade College's Writers Institute this May.

Bad writing workshops can feel like awkward group therapy: amateur writers moan about their brother's suicide through the veil of fiction while you brainstorm up varying ways to say "er, nice story, buddy." Lynda Barry's Writing the Unthinkable is nothing like those workshops. But her course description full of ALL CAPS and enthusiastic exclamation points may scare you off just the same!!! You see, Barry is unhinged. And that's a good thing.

But first, her credentials: Described as equal parts Dalai Lama and Gilda Radner, Barry is acclaimed for Ernie Pook's Comeek, a series that catalogs the day-to-day struggles of lonely, snarky pre-teens. Her book The Good Times Are Killing Me,was adapted as an off-Broadway play and won the Washington State Governor's Award. Her bestselling creative writing-how to-graphic novel, What It Is, won the 2009 Eisner Award for Best Reality Based Graphic Novel as well as an R.R. Donnelly Award.

What It Is catalogs her writing process, the very thing she'll teach you in Writing the Unthinkable. At the root is learning to think in images, transforming sense memories into detailed film strips. She believes our days are filled with fleeting and intense floods of memory -- like when a particular plastic smell reminds you of your Cabbage Patch Doll's bald head. In Barry's method, these moments are launch pads for creative thought.

Unlike other writing workshops, Writing the Unthinkable emphasizes anonymity and diminishes shame. Reading your wok outloud is voluntary and if people do share, others are asked to draw spirals in their notebooks instead of making eye contact with the writer. Barry believes adults do enough self-editing and critiquing, and that writers thrive in the most nonjudgmental atmosphere possible.

According to those who've attended her workshop over the past 15 years, Barry's unhinged presence is just as jumpstarting as any of the writing methods. One said:

Lynda Barry is part instructor, part shaman, part den mother and stand-up comedian all rolled up into one hippie package. It's worth it just to hear her speak, tell stories, sing, dance and joke. What acclaimed author have you met has given more than a standard book reading or lecture? Lynda gave me a hug. She told me face to face, with utmost sincerity that what I wrote was good.

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